DINKY 100 LADY PENELOPE’S FAB 1 (1966-1977):
Dinky’s Lady Penelope’s FAB 1, was a futuristic but somewhat implausible Rolls Royce that featured in the hit TV series ‘Thunderbirds‘. This was Dinky’s first TV character toy and was hugely successful becoming the ‘must have’ toy of Christmas 1966. Dinky had beaten Corgi* to the rights, from Lew Grade’s ITC, to produce this model and it was shortly followed by the 101 Thunderbird 2. However, the Dinky FAB 1 may never have been as Doug McHard, the Marketing Manager at the time explained that getting into character merchandising was seen as a ‘something of a gamble’ at the time.
The model remained in production for 11 years, a clear testament to its popularity.
FAB 1 was packed with features, it had a rocket that was fired by pressing the front wheels down although the radiator had to be manually opened first. At the back there were four harpoons launched by pressing the rear wheels down or two could be fired by pressing down on the left wheel and the other two by pressing on the right. Underneath the movable canopy were figures of the Chauffeur, Parker and of course Lady Penelope. The early versions had a badge on the top of the front grill, which was removed on some later models because of safety concerns.
TV PROP v DINKY MODEL:
The prop had a Rolls Royce badge under the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ figure on the radiator which was changed to a ‘P’ for the Dinky model possibly due to trade mark issues with Rolls Royce. The Dinky toy had four doors rather than the two on the main props, although the large ‘puppet’ size version had four.
THE TV PROP:
When considering the car’s make, series co-creator Gerry Anderson explained that considering Lady Penelope’s personality it could only be a Rolls-Royce. Derek Meddings incorporated a six-wheel drive into the design to distinguish the appearance from that of contemporary vehicles. Measuring seven feet (2.1 m) in length, the plywood model, which was equipped with fully functional steering and headlights, cost £2,500 to build in 1964 which is equivalent to £30,000 today.
Derek Meddings, the special effects director, remembered FAB 1 for its “outrageous styling, which bore no resemblance to any Rolls-Royce ever produced”. Rolls-Royce supervised the model’s sculpting and also supplied AP Films with a genuine radiator grille, complete with Spirit of Ecstasy ornament, costing £100. This was used in close-up shots (such as the machine guns firing, and a stock photograph of the car’s front that appears in the series’ closing credits).
Century 21 Tech Talk: FAB1
In the original Thunderbirds (1965–66), as well as the feature films Thunderbirds Are Go (1966) and Thunderbird 6 (1968), FAB 1 is depicted as a modified Rolls-Royce. Owned by International Rescue agent Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, the car is usually driven by her butler, Parker. The driver sits in a central position at the front of the passenger compartment, which is covered by a bulletproof bubble canopy.
FAB 1 was modified by Brains, the inventor of the Thunderbirds machines, to include weaponry and gadgetry such as front and back-mounted machine guns (although grappling hooks are seen to shoot out of the rear in the episode “The Perils of Penelope”). The car was also equipped with a smoke screen canister and oil slick dispenser, extendable tyre-studs for increased traction, and hydrofoils or outriggers for travel on water and snow, respectively.
FAB 1 TECHNICAL DATA:
- Length: 21 feet – Width: 8 feet – Weight: 3 tons.
- Top Speed on land: Between 200 and 300 mph, at sea: 50 knots.
- Seating Capacity: 3 (1 driver and 2 passengers)
- Front Armaments: 2 machine guns and 1 central machine cannon.
- Rear Armaments: 2 machine guns, 4 harpoon launchers, smokescreen canister, oil slick dispenser and 2 laser guns
The FAB 1 machine gun was replaced by a missile for the Dinky model. FAB 1 was fitted with a front rocket launcher, activated by pressing on the front wheels. The rocket provided, was also used with the Dinky SPV 104, SHADO 2 353 and Galactic War Chariot 361, and came in 3 different colours. Later models had two rockets.
6 spare harpoons, pack 755 and 6 spare rockets, pack 756 were available when they inevitably got lost. Or you could have looked under the sofa.
THE FIRST FAB 1:
Note the ‘Mustang’ style wheels, pink roof stripes and a bare metal base with short rails and a Century 21 text.
The key variation, released in 1970, was a fluorescent pink version but there were also changes to the wheels, the baseplate, rocket firing mechanism, the front grill, the seat colours and the sliding roof cover finishing. The original pink paint also had different hues over the years.
This version came in both the all cardboard box and with the bubble tray box.
WHEELS AND TYRES:
Wheel types: Wheel 1 on the first FAB1 as 161 Ford Mustang, Wheel 2, the most accurate hub, Wheel 3 as 218 Lotus Europa and Wheel 4 as 192 Range Rover.
There were 3 types of tyres for FAB 1 – Narrow Rubber, Large Nylon and Small Nylon tyres.
FRONT GRILL AND HEADLIGHT SURROUNDS:
Grill 1 with mascot and silver painted headlamp surrounds. Grill 2 omits mascot and silver surround paint. Note the Rolls Royce ‘RR’ motif is replaced by a ‘P’
The first version had a bare metal base with short rails and a ‘Century 21’ markings. Later versions had longer rails, were painted and then varnished. The last versions omitted the ‘Century 21’.
The earlier versions of the roof had pink stripes on the sliding canopy.
The first version and the most common seat colour was gold. Dark and light brown seats were also made but the rarest version has black seats which is the closest to the original prop version
The first box was all cardboard with an inner tray.
The second box had a tray with a bubble top.
The bubble base has different text variants and some had a warning sticker to urge caution when firing the missiles.
And there were two different font styles and the later version omitted the ‘die-cast metal’ flash.
The third and last box had a high narrow tray with a bubble top.
Two leaflets sometimes found in first all cardboard boxes, for models to be exported. Leaflet on the left is in French and the one on the right in Flemish
Black and white images of pre-production prototype.
ODDITIES AND RARITIES:
SOLID SILVER CAST VERSION (updated Sept 6th 2021)
A solid silver FAB1 was auctioned at an auction of Gerry Anderson memorabilia in 2009. This is now owned by Bert Van Ijken and he provided the background information.
The auction catalogue appears to be incorrect as the silver hallmark says 1983 (from David Shaw Silverware). The model was not made by Dinky but by Somerville Models (see image below) in 1982 or 83. Somerville was set up by Doug McHard, formerly employed by Meccano/Dinky in their marketing department. Somerville Models was named after his grandmother.
The model is made of solid Sterling Silver.
Steve Watts has also provided some information about the Somerville FAB 1.
The Silver ones were made by the original owner (Doug McHard) of Somerville around 1982. They produced two. Gerry’s was sold at auction. The moulds, parts and some information were auctioned on eBay a while ago.
A blog on QDT’s site mentioned a very rare white version, as well as red and grey variants. This gold version spotted on a Belgian auction website and was sold for €1,200.
FAB1 features in nearly all the Dinky catalogues during its production run, although the artwork was often similar.
The 1971 and 1972 catalogues artwork for FAB1 was a more strident pink closer to the fluorescent version released in 1972.
TV Century 21 Comics:
FAB 1 hit the front cover of TV Century 21 comics twice.
Corgi FAB 1: Corgi eventually produced 2 versions in 2003, one pink and the other a chromed pink, and the former re-released in 2016.